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EcoMotors "opoc" engine gets funding from Bill Gates, Vinod Khosla

By KBB.com Editors on July 14, 2010 1:12 PM
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EcoMotors International, creator of the revolutionary "opoc" (opposed piston opposed cylinder) powerplant, has received a major boost in its quest to make this super-efficient motivator an integral part of tomorrow's automotive scene. It came in the form of a $23.5 million investment by Microsoft Corporation chairman Bill Gates and Vinod Khosla, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist and co-founder of Sun Microsystems. According to EcoMotors CEO Don Runkle, this latest round of funding will be used to cover the remaining the cost of production engineering and testing on the sixth generation of the opoc engine as well as for advanced development on future programs.

Employing a unique variation on the traditional "boxer" configuration, the EcoMotors opoc alternative is a fully modular and scalable two-stroke design that weighs about half of what a comparable conventional four-stoke internal combustion engine would and requires no specialized assembly techniques. In addition to reducing component count by nearly half, the opoc engine delivers up to 50 percent better fuel economy while overcoming the kind of emission issues that historically have been the Achilles' heel of two-stroke engine designs.

Before dismissing those claims as mere idle boasts, be aware that the father of the opoc engine is EcoMotors' current chairman, Professor Peter Hofbauer, former head of powertrain development at Volkswagen AG and a central figure in the creation of VW's internationally renowned TDI clean diesel engines. For his part, Runkle's resume includes a stint as vice-president of North American engineering for General Motors.

Both Gates and Khosla see EcoMotors -- which is based in Troy, Michigan -- as a significant enabler on the road to a cleaner, greener automotive future. "The opoc engine can be an important step in providing affordable, low-emission transportation for the developing world," said Gates while Khosla -- whose firm already had a substantial holding in EcoMotors International -- believes the opoc design represents a game-changing innovation. "The only truly disruptive technologies are those that can provide not only payback in months but also economic and carbon benefits to large segments of the world's population without the need for subsidies or massive infrastructure investments. Among next-generation propulsion systems, the opoc engine is broadly applicable and can provide lower carbon emissions than almost any other technology."

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